Xu attends board meeting as student member

Jenna Ho-Sing-Loy, Sports Editor

Over the 2020-2021 school year, Winnie Xu (12) spent her lunch breaks engaged in lively discussion with elementary school students. 

Xu began working with the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, a group of Latino and Spanish-speaking attorneys, in April of 2020 joining them in teaching basic legal concepts to underprivileged Latino students in San Diego.

“The power of seeing these students being engaged in civic learning and becoming immersed in constitutional and judicial terms because they were seeing people of their same community was incredible,” Xu said. “I hoped to apply my own experience to serving on the [Poway Unified School District] Board of Education.”

This spring, Xu applied for and received a position on the PUSD Board of Education as a student member. She spent her first board meeting, Aug. 12, soaking up the conversation related to the restrictions of on-campus volunteers and visitors and taking notes on the operational structure and mannerisms of the other board members and district leaders.

As a student member, Xu gets a preferential vote and is able to propose items to the board’s agenda. 

However, she said that since the agendas are public and transparent, she would have to schedule the proposals months in advance. 

“This first meeting was incredibly interesting and absolutely different from what I was expecting,” Xu said. “I didn’t expect such intellectually driven debate and conversation around public health and student safety at the meeting.” 

Another aspect of the meeting that surprised Xu were the protesters gathered outside of the PUSD headquarters demonstrating against the district’s mask mandates and the recent addition of the Ethnic Studies courses into the school curriculum. 

“I was absolutely nervous,” she said. “It was overwhelming at times. However, with the polarization of masks and vaccines across the nation, I don’t expect any lack of these demonstrations in the future.” 

Despite the protests, Xu hasn’t backed down from her goals and is still committed to fostering civic learning and engagement with students in schools.

“I [also] hope to introduce greater leniency and excused absences from schools towards student civil demonstrations such as voting, poll-working, and voting registration,” she said. “I want to set up civic readiness for voting-eligible students for the upcoming 2022 elections.” 

Xu is also striving for increased language-immersion programs across the district and wants to utilize in-person schooling to host field trips to City Hall, San Diego court rooms, and the mayor’s office, for elementary and middle-school students. 

What excites her most about this position, though, is the opportunity to build relationships with the numerous student government leaders and foster positive change within the Poway Unified community.

She draws her inspiration for change from politicians who she’s worked with like Senator Anthony Portantino and Westview educators like Katie Wu who’ve been able to introduce important changes into PUSD. 

Xu said she believes that one of the most critical ways to engage students within school systems is through increased representation and exposure to new ideas from people who look like them. 

“I want to represent the 36,000 students and be guided by not only my ethnic background, but also my experiences,” she said. “The most powerful challenges to the natural order of things have occurred when leaders share the same identities and struggles of their community.”